Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Tribal community seeks to solve suicide crisis

By Alyssa Kelly
Char-Koosta News

TAP meeting coordinator and Community Health representative for the Tribal Health Department Leslie Caye presents his group’s healing tree. “When our community values our spirituality, our culture, our family, and mother earth it results in things like strength, identity, stability, and healing,” he says. (Alyssa Kelly photo)TAP meeting coordinator and Community Health representative for the Tribal Health Department Leslie Caye presents his group’s healing tree. “When our community values our spirituality, our culture, our family, and mother earth it results in things like strength, identity, stability, and healing,” he says. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

POLSON – How does a community address a suicide crisis? The question inspired a panel of nearly 30 community members to share their insight during a two-day facilitated discussion at the KwaTaqNuk Resort and Casino.

The discussion led by technical assistance director Jerry Crowshoe (Piikani) of Kauffman & Associates addressed the reported 20 suicides that occurred on the Flathead Reservation between November 2016 and November 2017.

“Flathead was one of two reservations in the nation selected by the Indian Health Service in Billings to receive this training,” Crowshoe said. “Every community is different so every solution is going to be different. I’m not here to say this is the problem and this is how you solve it. The solution has to come from the community.”

The “Tribal Action Plan” (TAP) training is part of a service offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). TAP is designed to promote community wide recovery based on four guiding principals: tribe’s cultural concepts of wellness and healing, fostering of tribal strengths, support of tribal self-determination, and local needs, challenges, assets, and resources.

Technical assistance director Jerry Crowshoe (Piikani) of Kauffman & Associates facilitated a two-day Tribal Action Plan training. “Flathead was one of two reservations in the nation selected by the Indian Health Service in Billings to receive this training. Every community is different so every solution is going to be different,” he says. (Alyssa Kelly photo)Technical assistance director Jerry Crowshoe (Piikani) of Kauffman & Associates facilitated a two-day Tribal Action Plan training. “Flathead was one of two reservations in the nation selected by the Indian Health Service in Billings to receive this training. Every community is different so every solution is going to be different,” he says. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

The first phase of the training focused on drafting a prevention plan, which is dependent on diverse and wide community input. Attendees wrote a healing tree outlining the community’s values, what the values provide, and its resulting action or change.

TAP meeting coordinator and Community Health representative for the Tribal Health Department Leslie Caye presented his group’s healing tree. “When our community values our spirituality, our culture, our family, and mother earth it results in things like strength, identity, stability, and healing,” he said. “We have to be rooted in who we are.”

The second phase of the training was developing a vision statement where attendees were divided in three groups and provided three different options. After evaluation, the room agreed to draft a single vision statement based on components of each of the individual options.

Montana’s Department of Public Health reported that 20 suicides occurred on the Flathead Reservation between November 2016 and November 2017. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration selected the Flathead Reservation for a Tribal Action Plan training designed to promote community healing. (Alyssa Kelly photo)Montana’s Department of Public Health reported that 20 suicides occurred on the Flathead Reservation between November 2016 and November 2017. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration selected the Flathead Reservation for a Tribal Action Plan training designed to promote community healing. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

“One of the things the group found important was listing the traditional names for each tribe in the vision statement (Selish, Ksanksa, and Qlispe tribes),” Crowshoe said. “That’s something that can only happen when it comes from the community itself. That’s something an outsider may not pick up on or understand.”

The third phase of the training was drafting a prevention plan. Attendees discussed “community conditions” or potential obstacles when seeking to fulfill the vision statement. The most common issues identified included: communication, commitment, sustainability, self-interest, evidence based solutions, and identifiable follow-ups.

Nearly 30 attendees designed an action plan by identifying a need, values, mission statement, and incorporating Dr. Edwin Lock’s theory on goal setting. (Alyssa Kelly photo)Nearly 30 attendees designed an action plan by identifying a need, values, mission statement, and incorporating Dr. Edwin Lock’s theory on goal setting. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

“An issue that keeps coming up is when you accept grant funding, it has to go towards what the grant calls for,” Salish and Kootenai Housing Authority Director Jason Adams said. “That doesn’t always meet the community need. Then you have people left trying to find ways to spend leftover grant money instead of focusing on addressing what we need.”

During the final phase of the training, Crowshoe discussed Dr. Edwin Lock’s theory on goal setting, which is based on five principals: clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback, and task complexity.

 “Your goal needs to be specific and measurable,” Crowshoe said. “It needs to have motivating level of difficulty and requires commitment. It is good to record feedback on the progress of the goal to see if you need adjustments; look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). You need to be able to be flexible and focused on the long term goal so you don’t get distracted by the little obstacles along the way.”

The third phase of the training was drafting a prevention plan. Attendees discussed “community conditions” or potential obstacles when seeking to fulfill the vision statement. The most common issues identified included: communication, commitment, sustainability, self-interest, evidence based solutions, and identifiable follow-ups. (Alyssa Kelly photo)The third phase of the training was drafting a prevention plan. Attendees discussed “community conditions” or potential obstacles when seeking to fulfill the vision statement. The most common issues identified included: communication, commitment, sustainability, self-interest, evidence based solutions, and identifiable follow-ups. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

Crowshoe said he has implemented the training on reservations throughout the nation and has seen success and obstacles over five-years. “It takes the commitment of the entire community to really make long term change,” he said. “A successful plan was made with the Warm Springs Tribe in Oregon and they’ve maintained it beyond our assistance. Today they offer community counseling, which is something they decided was good for their community.”

The TAP training requires a community gathering where the suicide action plan will be presented to the community at large. Crowshoe said community members will then have the opportunity to gain insight, offer input, and if need be make adjustments. No date has been set for the presentation.

For more information visit: https://www.samhsa.gov or call Brenda Bodnar at: (406) 745-3525, extension: 5020.

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